Monday, 26 March 2012

The Veil: Part 1

*The word ‘veil’ here includes both the hijab (the head-cover) and the niqab (the face-cover).

The desire to declare that, associating the act of veiling with any form of enslavement or debasement is merely fulfilling some hidden political scheme outlined by some (recognisable) powers whose sole motive is none other than bringing about the conflicts within the Muslims themselves and eventually their complete control over the Muslim countries, is so great that realising it is just a matter of typing the words in, which I already did anyway albeit generally. Had I not possessed any concrete evidence justifying my claim and considered it as a blindly-constructed accusation, I would instantly disseminate the claim widely without any hesitation. As for now you know that the desire is well established in my mind that getting hold of any proof is highly anticipated. 

I bet most of you by now have watched this video.

If you need to read the transcript of the debate, read it here:
Hebah Ahmed and Mona Eltahawy on the French Niqab Ban

One important thing that needs to be noted is: 

This is a debate between TWO Muslim women.

There are several issues I would like to highlight here.
  1. It is sad to learn that the Muslims themselves are ruining the honour of veiling and that of the women donning the veil.
  2. Some Muslim women really have the tendency of extrapolating their personal experiences and ethnic cultures to other Muslim women of different backgrounds all over the world. This is a classic case of narrow-minded liberals. Ironic indeed.
  3. We are talking about a conflict between the French government and the covered Muslim women. We do not need Mona.
  4. Why are they getting so obsessed by a veil, A PIECE OF CLOTH? I mean we have other dire matters that require our immediate attention and yet these people are busy arguing about what the Muslim women should or should not wear. Putting aside the very fact that this is an outright violation of women’s rights let alone those of humans, because they seem to be forgetting about those (the rights) lately, I hope they do realise that the veil that they see as threatening and oppressive is basically JUST a part of what constitutes one’s attire. Of course there are cases where donning a veil is more than just a cloth. But right now, we are dealing with women who are proud of their veil and cover themselves willingly hence all this talk about veiling as one of Islam’s forms of degrading and oppressing the women is completely uncalled for and futile.

I could write about how the non-Muslim women are subject to oppression and denigration through the ways they bring themselves before other people or how they are represented in the media or how they are treated by the men. I could write all these but I feel that it would be pointless. It will not make the Muslim women better by bringing the non-Muslim women down. People are busy defending themselves by being offensive. I certainly do not want to jump on the bandwagon. Hence, I prefer to address this as I feel it should be addressed.

Our life is replete with systems coordinating and regulating our roles and actions. However, it really depends on us whether we want to conform to the systems or not. All the rules and regulations are set before us, we are expected to follow them but at the end of the day we are the one responsible for our own conduct. We act and we bear the consequences of our own actions. As simple as that. Let me provide a few examples: attending classes is compulsory but you still skip one or two; there’s a due date for you to submit your assignment but you often submit later than the appointed time; you need to perform your salat but you disregard them sometimes or most of the time; and you need to be loyal to your partner but you are meeting some other man/woman behind their back.

I’m not encouraging people to skip classes, to procrastinate, to disregard their salat and to cheat on their partner. But the argument I am trying to emphasise here is this; regardless of knowing what we need or obliged to do and recognising the imminent consequences following our actions, sometimes we still do the exact opposite of what was expected of us or in short, we still do the wrong thing in spite of knowing that it’s wrong. Besides this being the obvious indicator that our iman is weakening, another way of viewing it, is that we really have the power to decide what we want to do.

So, most of the Muslims brought up in an Islamic environment are well aware of the dos and don’ts. They know the concepts of rewards and punishments, heaven and hell. But knowing does not mean acknowledging. It certainly does not mean accepting. Many Muslim women sadly, do not cover despite knowing it is obligatory for them to do so. Why? Because they CHOOSE not to cover. There are many factors contributing to their choice but the main point is, they have the power to DECIDE. (Some Muslim women nonetheless, have their personal view on veiling that they do not see it as an obligation. This is of course, a different issue altogether.)

How about the women who are forced to cover by their families and communities? Yes, we do have such circumstances. But do you really think that Muslim women are the only ones who are often shackled to social and cultural practices and expectations? There are numerous stories about women who are of different religious beliefs or ideologies that are forced to succumb to what is strictly imposed on them inconsiderately by their families and societies. Again, I’m just stating the point without giving the examples because the words ‘force’ and ‘Islam’ have been so synonymously associated now as if the definition of the former were the latter that I strongly feel the need to remind people of the matter of force in a broader view. So we are not talking about religion where the matter of force and intolerance is concerned. We are talking about the society, the community and the family. We are talking about the PEOPLE. Islam is not distorted in itself but the people are the ones distorting it for their own benefits and needs. I wish I could say that being a Muslim is the equivalent of being an Islamic devotee because essentially as Muslims, we are supposed to be religious, but I could not because unfortunately the present state highlights a big difference between being a Muslim and being Islamic and the fact that the definitions of 'being a Muslim' and 'being religious' vary according to different people complicates things further.

People need to realise that Muslims come from various ethnographical backgrounds. Thus, no one Muslim is similar to another. The social context affects one’s life. We cannot simply expect one to behave in accordance with how we view them. I am not here to show how divided the Muslims are through the differences that we Muslims exude but being different does not mean disintegration. I love to see how Hebah Ahmed has managed to represent the veiled Muslim women better. But I also feel that the possibility of Islam being misrepresented and misunderstood through this debate. One could listen to this and be amazed by Hebah Ahmed. But this debate could also convince people that the differences among the Muslims are bringing them apart.

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